Top 20 Washington State Trips

Deception Pass

Deception Pass is the most popular park in Washington State.

Deception Pass is 1.5 hours north of Seattle on a spectacular strait between Fidalgo and Whidbey Island, connected by the Deception Pass bridge. The bridge is actually two different bridges, connected by Pass Island.

So how did Deception Pass get its name? When Captain George Vancouver explored this area in 1792, he initially thought that Whidbey Island was part of a peninsula, and felt deceived when he discovered a channel indicating it was an island (thus the name Deception Pass). He named Whidbey Island after his trusted officer, Joseph Whidbey.

This gorgeous park has dramatic headlands, secluded coves, beaches and lakes.  Enjoy miles of hiking trails, swim at Cranberry Lake, or stay overnight at a choice of three campgrounds.  

There are automated pay stations at Deception Pass to purchase a daily Discover Pass.

10 best things to do at Deception Pass

  1. Walk across the dramatic 180-foot Deception Pass Bridge:  Park at the south end of Deception Bridge, then walk along the bridge's pedestrian crossing and watch the turbulent waters churned up from rip tides below.​

  2. Stroll along North Beach to see the Deception Pass Bridge:  Drive to the North and West Beach parking lot on the northwest corner of Whidbey Island at Deception Pass, then walk along North Beach's sheltered shoreline at low tide for iconic views of the Deception Pass Bridge.  The 0.9 mile North Beach Trail above the beach has sheltered picnic areas and an amphitheater, and has an elevation change of 190 feet.

  3. Drive out to West Beach for superb views of the Olympic Mountains: Drive to the North and West Beach parking lot for incredible views of the Olympic Mountains and San Juan Islands from West Beach.  This is the most popular beach at Deception Pass, and has gorgeous sunsets.  Don't forget to take the Sand Dune Interpretive Trail along the south end of West Beach (1.2 mile loop).

  4. Swim or wade at Cranberry Lake:  Walk a short distance inland from West Beach to swim at Cranberry Lake (no lifeguards).  You can also take the 1-mile (one way) Cranberry Trail.

  5. Explore tidepools at Rosario Beach:  Drive to the Rosario Beach parking lot north of the Deception Pass Bridge, in the southwest corner of Fidalgo Island.  Explore the tidepools at the southern end of Rosario Beach, and search for the famous Maiden of Deception Pass totem pole. Take the 0.3 mile loop trail around Rosario Head with views of Whidbey Island and the San Juan Islands.  There are cliffs out on the Head so this trail is not appropriate for young kids.

  6. Visit the beach and playground at Bowman Bay: Drive to the Bowman Bay Boat Launch parking lot 1.6 miles southwest of Rosario Beach, to the beach, playground and restrooms.

  7. Stop by the C.C.C Interpretive Center:  The Interpretive Center is north of the Bowman Bay Boat Launch parking lot on a grassed area with picnic tables, in the old bathhouse building.  This Interpretive Center tells the story of the 1930's Depression-era programs that set unemployed men to work on public works infrastructure programs for State Parks like Deception Pass.

  8. Camp at Deception Pass:  Stay at one of three Deception Pass campgrounds.  The Quarry Pond Campground is open year-round, and has five rustic cabins and restrooms with showers. The Bowman Bay and Cranberry Lake Campgrounds are open seasonally and are both close to the water and have showers and restrooms.  Make a reservation.

  9. Stay overnight at Ben Ure Island:  Book the basic cabin on Ben Ure Island, only accessible by boat.  Make a reservation.

  10. Book lodging at nearby Oak Harbor:   There's no hotels, inns or vacation rentals at Deception Pass.  However the nearby township of Oak Harbor has great options.   These include the luxurious Soaring Eagle Lodge, incredible views at The Bluff on Whidbey B&B, or nice rooms at the Coachman Inn or Best Western Oak Harbor.

Fun things to do near Deception Pass.

Whidbey Island is south of Deception Pass.  Explore Whidbey Island attractions, like the beautiful townships of Coupeville and Langley, Admiralty Head Lighthouse at stunning Fort Casey, and sweet treats, coffee, wine and a kid's play area at Greenbank Farm.

Anacortes is north of Deception Pass, with spectacular views of the San Juans Islands from the Mt Erie viewpoint, and a loop drive around coastal Washington Park.

Review this attraction